A tough one, Part 2….
Today, as you may know from reading part 1, we celebrated reaching halfway on our odyssey down the Mississippi. This was a major milestone, physically and psychologically and I was delighted to have made it this far, helped every day by Paddy and the team. But given that this blog aims to be a true reflection of our journey, I have a confession to make – I am really, really tired and on my uppers. I woke after a difficult night, worrying about the fundraising and how I can do more, really needing more sleep, but 06.00 came around fast and as there is no provision for breakfast, we had to make some for the troops and I found myself cooking porridge, joylessly and grumpy – not my usual demeanour.
We scoured the weather forecasts per usual and all were in agreement. Wind south or south-east at a negligible 2-5 mph, largely overcast with sun coming through after midday. How very, very wrong they were.
Because we were staying 45 minutes plus one ferry from our start point, we were not on the water until 09.00 and immediately there was a strong, cold headwind to greet our first strokes. We had 32 miles to cover and we pushed into the wind, all largely in good heart but with me knowing I was only at 80% at best. I felt sorry for James Whitworth, who was with me as he had trained so hard and was exhibiting terrific form, especially as he had been a complete beginner before taking up the challenge.
The wind continued and began gusting and building. 2 mph, my arse….. The only accurate point was the suggestion of an overcast sky, which darkened by the minute, matched by the increasing wind. We stopped and opened our champagne to toast the halfway point of our trip – a very happy break. And then it started to drizzle. Then it rained a little harder and then it hammered down on us, unrelenting, as we strained to keep pushing into the wind. Olivia, bless her, was very cold and had taken the “Paddy option” of wearing every available stitch of clothing, plus two life jackets and a sheepskin. Then her detailed map blew away, then we had to remove our flagpole as it was causing the boat to slew as we rowed. James had some layers on, I had only a tee shirt and no shoes, as the weather forecast had said it would be warm.
The rain abated for a short while, before resuming over our last 15 miles. By now, I was very weary but had no option than to keep going and get it over with as quickly as possible. Because we wanted to shorten tomorrow into St Louis down to 30 miles, we had arranged to go a little further today and on we plugged. Our last straight was 7 miles, but directly into the wind, which by now was building standing waves. We made towards the shore for some, any, protection and although we found a little, there was no stream, so progress was slow, exacerbated by lots of huge pieces of driftwood. This meant that Olivia and Maeve, the two stalwart coxes, had to “slalom” along this last stretch which in turn meant that each time they jammed on the rudder, we slowed down. It was agonising…..
We finished and I sat, slumped over my sculls as the others unloaded the boats. I congratulated James and Stephen, much, much more than stalwart rowers, and hugged Paddy. Then I sat down on a rock and could not really move.
I have one more day tomorrow of around 30 miles into St Louis, then I have two rest days. I am, frankly, in real need of a respite as I am close to my limit right now and feeling pretty emotionally drained too. I am hugely envious of Paddy as his wife Mel arrives this afternoon from Australia to join us for the rest of the trip. I so wish Julie was here too as I need some help….
I apologise for not being “up”, but I would be lying if I said anything else. I will do my very best to rest and recover, but just now I want to curl up and sleep for a week…..
This river is testing my limits, but I will never give in.